Outburst of suppressed emotions

Graphic novel

Sarah is annoyed. Then she gets really mad. After sometime, she is furious. And then she is outrageous. She is almost done with everyone around her, including her family.

She doesn’t want to earn praise for listening to her parents or brother, even though, at times, their arguments seem stupid and actions, selfish. She has had enough. So, she marches towards her parents’ room and decides to speak her mind, “They can’t keep doing this to me... I’ll give them a piece of my mind”.

And then she overhears her mother’s conversation with father, “Wasn’t Sarah amazing today? She handled the whole lunch. Didn’t complain ever once! She is the perfect daughter!” All her fury freezes in a second. She becomes obedient again because now she doesn’t want to break her parents’ heart; after all they called her “the perfect daughter”. This very idea of being a “dutiful daughter” stems from a society which is patriarchal in nature, and this idea is deeply entrenched in Indian subcontinent. The story of Sarah is about a Pakistani girl, but she resembles the not-so-privileged daughters of India as well, the ones who adhere to the rule of being that perfect nobody whose personal identity ceases to exist.

The fictional character, Sarah, of the illustrated book Sarah: The Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter (Penguin) is created, illustrated and written by Ayesha Tariq. The Karachi-based illustrator has reflected over her personal experiences, talked to different girls and conducted some surveys to draw a more relatable picture of a girl living in a patriarchal society.

“In the Pakistani society, there are very prescribed hierarchal moulds for men, women and children, and it is considered almost blasphemous to deviate from these roles. They have been passed down from generations. I would not say that these characteristics belong or do not belong to a certain demographic, but rather whoever follows or deviates from these norms,” she tells Metrolife.

So the visuals trace Sarah’s agony when her mother tells her not to wear jeans because it is not appropriate for an 18-year-old girl who is grown up, as per societal rules. She also can’t be seen in a car alone with a male friend because he is a ghair mard (strange boy) and what would people think about her and the family. So, there are rules and mathematical equations that need to be calculated when she is to be accompanied by these strange-male friends.

Then she has a deadline to follow, something her brother never has to. And when it comes to dinner parties and lunches, she is the one supposed to help her mother. It is during these parties she avoids meeting her ‘loving khaaloo’ (uncle) because he, in the garb of affection, touches her inappropriately. And when she tells this to her ami (mother), she chooses to be in denial. “One shouldn’t say things like that!”

“The sleazy khaaloo, is a metaphor for camouflaged sexual abusers, something that is difficult to tell anyone let alone address it,” she says.

So, Sarah has every reason to be angry and her anger is shown through a glass bottle with a stopper. With every episode she dips her pen in ink and scribbles her thoughts on it. Angry thoughts and emotions fill it steadily and to such an extent that it starts over flowing with expressions. So she puts a stopped on the bottle and continues her rant on the second one, and so on.

“Ever thought of how we talk about extreme emotions like anger? Words like brimming, pent-up, bottled-up, vent contain, explode. All suggest that it is in a vessel of sorts, and we keep trying to hold it in, because it would be rude or impolite otherwise. That is where the visual motif comes from,” she says.

According to Tariq while conceptualising and drawing she was bothered by two constant thoughts: Would she end up offending her family and would she be painting a negative picture of her country?

“I thought they might not understand that this is all showing a glimpse of the bigger picture and that the characters and instances may have been borrowed,” she recollects. But this didn’t happen and they were quite supportive of her project. And the scary thought of projecting Pakistani society in a bad light vanished soon as she decided to face implications, but give the idea a try. So that later in life she wouldn’t feel guilty of not trying for the fear of outcome.

“I guess most of our lives, we try to stay out of trouble, except that one time where you think you just might be able to get away with it, get away with speaking your mind, and I guess even if you don’t you think well at least I tried,” she says.

“So, all I can do is hope. I hope it gives people the courage to question what they think, believe, imply or do, and if they believe that their practice is hurting someone, they change it,” she adds.

Assembly elections 2019 | Get the latest news, views and analysis on elections in Haryana and Maharashtra on DeccanHerald.com

For election-related news in Maharashtra, click here

For election-related news in Haryana, click here

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)